How to Rank Higher in Local Search with Google My Business
Google visibility is essential for any business today. The majority of businesses know that optimizing their website and Google Ads is crucial, but many don’t realize there is a third entity that needs to be optimized as well: their Google business listing. A Business Profile is a dynamic snapshot of your business that highlights your best features and enables potential customers to quickly find, learn about, and engage with you right from the SERPs. What’s even better? You can use it for free.
A BrightLocal study found that despite Google’s 167 billion searches each month, the average Business Profile only received 1,260 views during that same period (that’s 0.00000075%!). Out of those 1,260 views, only 59 actions are taken. Less than 5%.
It’s not Google My Business’s fault that businesses aren’t utilizing its impressive features to the fullest extent possible. This is why we have written this guide. The following 13 strategies will help you optimize your website:
- Take control of your business profile by claiming or creating it
- You must complete every section of your Google My Business account
- Keep your contact information accurate and up-to-date
- Make a selection of primary and secondary categories
- Select the attributes that apply to your business
- Describe the business from the perspective of the owner
- Publish Google posts on a weekly basis
- Every week, upload new photos
- Provide answers to questions
- Reviews should be collected and responded to
- Your products and/or services can be added here
- Set up a messaging system
- Make sure your business profile is updated
By optimizing your Business Profile, you’ll be able to get more customers for free. Let’s get started.
This post refers to your Google Business Profile instead of the more familiar term “Google business listing”.
What does an optimized Google Business Profile look like?
Before we get into the strategies, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what an optimized Business Profile looks like and why you need one. To help you visualize what you’re striving for and why, let’s take a look at a mockup of an incomplete Google Business Profile versus a complete and optimized one.
Compared to Carl’s Google Business Profile, Ernie’s Business Profile would show even more when scrolled. The diagram doesn’t cover all of the features of an optimized Google Business Profile, but it gives you an idea of how much more engaging and attractive one is.
Why you need to optimize your Google Business Profile
Clearly, optimizing your Google Business Profile for effective local marketing will help consumers choose your business over competitors. However, there are other advantages to optimizing your Google Business Profile.
In recent years, consumers have increasingly entered and exited Google without going to another website. What’s the reason? Due to the fact that search results pages themselves provide answers to their questions, they do not have to click on anything else. Your Google Business Profile could be interacting with more consumers than your website, so you’ll want it optimized for conversions and quality engagement.
Boost your local ranking
Google’s algorithm for ranking Business Profiles does not just consider proximity and relevance but also activity and quality of information. Optimizing your Google Business Profile sends these signals to Google to rank you higher in local results. And higher rank, as you know, means more visibility and engagement with your business.
In terms of acquiring customers, a regular Google Business Profile doesn’t offer much. You can be found and your reviews can be read-if they know to search your business name!
When you optimize your Business Profile through Google My Business, consumers can find you when they search for keywords, call you, visit your website, research your products and services, view/contribute to FAQs, request a quote, make an appointment, reserve a room, and more. In addition, UTMs and Google Analytics allow you to track clicks to your website, appointment, or menu link.
How to optimize your Google Business Profile
Once you’ve seen that optimizing your Google Business Profile is the key to getting found in local search, standing out above competitors, and winning customers online, it’s time to get started. Your Google Business Profile can be used as a 24/7 marketing and lead generation tool for your local business in 13 different ways.
1. Create a Google My Business account
In the first place, it’s important to note that a Google Business Profile differs from a Google My Business account. Using the latter, the former can be accessed and optimized. To make the optimizations outlined in this guide, you need a Google My Business account connected to your Google Business Profile in order to make the recommendations. Visit Google.com/business and sign in with the regular Google/Gmail account you use for your business (not your personal Gmail).
2. Complete every section
The completeness of your Google Business Profile not only helps Google to rank you higher in local search results, but it also increases the number of actions customers take when they find your profile. There’s a lot of information to provide, so here are some guidelines for prioritizing.
These aspects of your profile should be completed right away:
These sections take a bit more time and thought:
- Category and Attributes
- Products and services
- From the business
- Questions and answers (Owner-generated queries)
These sections are ongoing:
- Questions and answers (Consumer-generated)
3. Be meticulous with contact information
Here are the steps for optimizing the contact information in your Google Business Profile:
- Ensure your business name matches the one on your store signage. This is how it appears in the real world. You could be penalized by Google for adding location names (unless they are part of your brand name) or keywords.
- Your business name and address should match exactly across all of your online listings. Consistently use “st” vs “street” or “co” vs “company.” Your credibility will be impacted by these inconsistencies.
- Provide both regular and holiday hours. As a result, customers are more likely to visit your store, and you avoid the risk of a negative review left by someone who discovers your store is closed when they try to go.
4. Write your “from the business” description
You cannot actually control the brief description that appears just below your business name in your Business Profile. Google writes this editorial summary to ensure consistency across its platforms.
This description is not in your control.
It’s a bummer, I know. The good news is that Google does a pretty good job of creating descriptions.
You do have control over the description in the “from the business” section of your Google My Business account. Often, this section appears below the reviews in your profile.
You can optimize your Google Business Profile’s “from the business” section by following these steps:
- Make sure you use all 750 characters, with key information appearing in the first 250.
- Your mission statement or “About Us” page can be repurposed.
- Identify the keywords your audience uses to find businesses like yours.
- Don’t repeat information already visible in other sections of your profile. You can use this space to describe what sets your business apart from competitors.
- Links and HTML are not allowed.
5. Choose a category
When optimizing your Google Business Profile, you must choose a category. Here’s why:
- Discover your content through discovery searches. In Google, 84% of Business Profiles are viewed through discovery searches (meaning consumers searched for a product, service, or categorical term, and the business’ profile appeared), compared to 16% that are viewed directly (the consumer enters the business name or address). Especially true for businesses whose names do not indicate their service (e.g., Fresh Express or Amelia’s Catering).
- Specific features should be highlighted for each category. By choosing a category, Google gives you access to category-specific features that make your profile more attractive and effective. Restaurants can include a menu or a reservation button, hotel profiles can include star ratings, and hair salons can indicate they have experience with thin or curly hair. Consumers may be able to select you over your competitors based on these details.
Google Business Profiles display your category at the top.
It’s important to choose the right categories from Google’s list. You can optimize your Google Business Profile using categories by following these steps:
- Specificity is key. If you’re a nail salon, you should choose “Nail Salon” rather than “Salon.” If you’re a restaurant, choose “Egyptian Restaurant,” “American Restaurant,” etc., rather than just “Restaurant.” You will see a drop-down list of categories as you start typing, but you can also view a full list of GMB categories here to find the most relevant one for your business (there are over 3,000) to choose from.
- Select secondary categories. It is common for businesses to fall into more than one category. Your primary category should be your principal offering (for example, “Grocery Store”), followed by additional categories that apply, such as “Grocery Delivery Service” or “Gourmet Grocery Store.”
- Be careful not to overdo it. Select only categories that match your offering if you want Google to connect you with consumers who need your services. The appliance repair business, for example, should select “Appliance Repair,” not “Appliance Parts Supplier.” Technically, you do supply service parts, but that’s not part of your business’s core offering. (Pro tip: Do not confuse categories with products or attributes.)
If you edit your category list or add multiple categories, Google might ask you to verify your business. The purpose of this is to ensure accuracy across their platform.
6. Select applicable attributes
If you choose a category, Google will give you a list of attributes you can check off to describe your business further. The attributes of a business are the features that potential customers seek out, such as a gift shop on site or free Wi-Fi.
There are attributes on other review sites as well (like Yelp), so Google My Business’s are not unique. However, Google’s attributes are really granular, such as “good for laptop users” or “popular with travelers”.
7. Add photos
You should upload photos to your Google My Business account dashboard for three reasons:
- Keep quality high. Photos can be added by anyone to your Business Profile, so you’ll get a range of quality. You can make your profile look great by adding your own great photos.
- Actively participate. Google will see that your profile is active and up-to-date if you add photos regularly.
- Images should appear in the results. Image recognition is improving at Google, and local search results are now displaying photos.
- Engage your audience. According to Google, customers are 42% more likely to request driving directions to a business if its Business Profile includes photos, and 35% more likely to click through to its website if it has photos. Moreover, a BrightLocal study found that businesses with more than 100 photos receive 520% more calls, 2,717% more directions, and 1,065% more website clicks than the average business. Wow.
Adding a hundred images to your profile at once isn’t necessary. Optimize your Google Business Profile with these tips:
- Every seven days, add a new photo.
- Upload your logo as your thumbnail photo.
- Use a cover photo that best represents your brand. Depending on the search query, Google will display different feature photos.
- You should also include happy customers, interior and exterior views, and team photos in your general photos, according to Google’s photo guidelines.
- Stock photos, special effects, and branding are not allowed. The Google search engine tries to reflect the way your business appears in real life.
- Make sure the images are clear and high-quality (to align with image-enriched results).
When a keyword is searched, Google displays a specific photo from a Business Profile directly in local results.
- You can further increase your prominence by geo-tagging your photos.
- You can also add videos!
- Upload a 360-degree photo to your profile using Google’s Street View app.
8. Get Google reviews
Which one of these businesses would you choose if you were presented with a list like the following? Do you prefer the one with four yellow stars or one of the two below with no reviews?
Reviews are the #1 influence on consumer buying, so Google’s algorithm includes them as a ranking factor. The impact of reviews on ranking can also be seen for yourself. The first three local results on Google (in the “Local 3-Pack”) are the ones with multiple reviews and solid star ratings for most searches:
In addition, Google may display a Business Profile if it has reviews containing those keywords.
As a way of further validating relevance, Google will highlight keywords in your reviews.
These tips will help you stand out from your competition on Google Business Profiles:
- To start the momentum, focus on your long-time, loyal customers.
- By creating a review shortcut link or using Whitespark’s free shortcut link generator, you can make it as easy as possible for customers to leave a review.
- Get in touch! If asked, 62% of customers will write a review. Communicate through email, text, social media, and in person.
- It’s important to remind customers that reviews aren’t just for your benefit; they help people with the same pain points find a solution and make informed decisions.
- Put a CTA for leaving reviews on your website’s “Reviews” page.
- Respond to reviews as soon as possible. Leaving feedback encourages additional customers to do the same, tells prospects a lot about your business, and improves your local SEO.
Check out this post on how to get more Google reviews for a deeper dive into this optimization strategy.
You can’t incentivize reviews with discounts, gifts, or cash, though.
9. Post to your Google Business Profile
Similarly to social media platforms, you can post announcements, offers, events, and products to your Google Business Profile. Your Google My Business dashboard displays posts under the “Updates” section near the bottom of your Business Profile. Depending on the search query, they may become more prominent.
Posts help you optimize your Google Business Profile in the following ways:
- Consumers who find your profile are more likely to take action after reading your posts.
- A regular posting schedule sends positive ranking signals to Google, just as adding photos does.
- It is more likely that consumers will engage with your Google posts than posts on Facebook or Instagram when they are leisurely scrolling.
- Your Business Profile can be followed by consumers and they will be notified of new posts and updates as soon as they are published.
In addition to appearing on Maps, your Google My Business posts will be free advertising for your local business.
To optimize your Google Business Profile, follow these tips:
- Keep posting regularly. It is not just for Google, but also because certain types of posts expire every week.
- For marketing campaigns with a timeline, use event and offer posts. The posts will remain live for the duration of the date range you specify.
- Every post should include links and CTAs.
10. Ask and answer questions
Do you know that Amazon also includes a section for FAQs alongside the product description and customer reviews? In Google Business Profiles, the same feature is available.
Image courtesy of searchengineland.com
Customers may choose your business based on the answers to these questions. As a result, this section is particularly important to optimize since anyone can ask a question on a business’s Google profile as well as answer them. You could end up with inaccurate information on your profile, or worse, something like the Q&A on this pizza restaurant’s profile:
The Q&A feature of your Business Profile can’t be turned off, but you can optimize it:
- Keep up with your profile’s questions and answers by setting up alerts.
- Create your own Q&A section. Take a look at what your business gets asked most often. You can then ask, answer, and upvote your answer on your own profile. Google’s terms and conditions do not prohibit this. It is actually encouraged by Google.
- Keywords should be kept in mind. Including keywords in your questions and answers can improve your Business Profile’s ranking. Keep your keyword strategy in mind when seeding your Q&A section, but use them loosely and organically.
Monitoring and seeding your Q&A section will ensure accurate information, highlight your best features, and reduce common entry barriers.
11. Add products and services
It is especially important to add products and services if your business name does not clearly indicate what you offer. By filling out this section, you can also enhance your profile’s ranking for relevant searches.
Be sure to include the name, description, and price (if applicable) when adding products and services. When a searcher clicks on the product, the full description will appear. Your category section may also link to your products.
12. Set up messaging
From your Google Business Profile, searchers can send you a text message. 82% of smartphone shoppers (92% of millennials) use their devices for local searches, so this is a great opportunity for customers to contact you.
You can enable messaging by selecting the “Messaging” tab in your Google My Business dashboard, and you can install it through Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Here are two notes on Google My Business messaging:
- Using Google’s Allo app, you won’t have to display your personal phone number.
- Make sure you set up alerts for messages in your Google My Business dashboard. Check off “Customer messages” in settings.
13. Maintain your Business Profile with a solid Google My Business strategy
It is clear from the above that a Google Business Profile is not just a one-time marketing exercise. Increasing your online presence and maximizing your benefits require ongoing action with this local marketing tool. Included in this are:
- It is important to update information, even a change in the suite number can be a big deal.
- Posts and photos are uploaded every week.
- Maintain a steady stream of reviews.
- Reviews are monitored and responded to.
- Making sure you use your profile to its full potential by staying informed of new features.
The goal of your Google My Business strategy is to provide as much quality information about your company as possible, not just in your Business Profile, but also in the sources Google uses to populate it—your website, review sites, and social media accounts. Despite not knowing every ranking factor, we know their ultimate goal: to connect searchers to the best business based on detailed, trusted information. Be sure to take advantage of your Google My Business dashboard to ensure that your Business Profile represents your business as accurately and comprehensively as possible, and then maintain it so that you can reap its benefits.